Eh. I’ve seen taller.
Born André René Roussimoff, Andre the Giant was one of the most recognizable and iconic wrestlers of his time. He was tall, athletic, fun-to-watch, personable, scary, and practically everywhere, which was no early feat during the 70’s and early-80’s, when wrestling was still trying to figure itself out from being all about territories, to becoming something far more mainstream and, well, monopolized. But for Andre the Giant and the life he led, it was an adventurous one, filled with lots of booze, lots of ladies, lots of fights, and most especially, lots of flights. After awhile, it began to take a toll on his mind and his body which, having to do with his fight with gigantism, Andre never knew how much time he had left on this world. He was just trying to live it up and please everyone in the audience, which he did, all up until he was age 46 and he tragically passed-away.
But man. What a life he led.
With Ric Flair’s 30 for 30 early in the year and now this, pro-wrestling seems to not only be getting the credit it deserves as a legitimate subject worthy of covering in documentaries, but we’re also doing them without having to feel as if they’re puff-pieces for the WWE. These ones are mostly being produced independently away from WWE and while there is no doubt some help from the corporation, in terms of footage, interviews, and all sorts of other access, the documentaries don’t live and breathe by what Vince McMahon, or anyone else apart of the company has signed-off on. This makes the documentaries not only more truthful and honest, but complete, feeling as if we’re getting the whole story, and not just some version of the truth that we want to be told.
And I know I sound ultra weird and paranoid, but trust me, when it comes to Vince McMahon and the total control the man has, a lot of this stuff matters. But thankfully, like I said before, Andre the Giant, the documentary, isn’t that kind of piece of entertainment that glamorizes every inch of this superstar, nor the company he worked for; it gives us an honest glimpse at a man who was literally larger than life, loved it, had some issues with it, but mostly, got to do what he always wanted to do. In a sense, the documentary is much more of a tribute to great workmanship, as opposed to just being about someone as huge as Andre the Giant, but still, it gets us one step closer to the man, the myth that surrounds him, and the legend that he would ultimately become.
Which is saying something, because even all of these years later, Andre the Giant still remains a mystery.
Perhaps though, as director Jason Hehir seems to tell us, maybe that was the point. Andre only wanted to go out there and entertain crowds by the thousands and not have anyone go home unsatisfied. My own father himself recalls seeing Andre quite a few times at the Wachovia Spectrum in Philadelphia (when it was still up) and being not just shocked by his huge size, but by how much of a show he put on, never seeming like he was in it just for the money, or the fame, but instead, for the good graces of knowing that he gave it his all and the crowd realized that.
Sure, he’ll always go down as one of the largest men to ever set foot in the ring, but he should also always be remembered for being the first real superstar of professional wrestling. He wasn’t afraid to do what he wanted and people not just respected him for it, but loved him as well. And he loved them right back. It’s what ultimately killed him, which makes this documentary, while altogether a very entertaining, insightful, and compelling doc, still a tragic one.
Consensus: Despite what some may think of professional wrestling as a whole, Andre the Giant does justice to its behemoth of a subject-material and allows us to not just see the true athlete, but the human inside as well.
8 / 10
Photos Courtesy of: HBO